Have you ever been worried about what it would look like on your resume if you left a job “too soon”? What exactly is “too soon”?
According to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average worker (the average of all ages of workers) stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years. But younger workers appear to switch more frequently: ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers. And according to Business Week's Richard Florida, people under the age of 30 are changing jobs on average in less than two years!!
Younger workers today have seen how little job security there was during the Great Recession, so they plan defensively and basically consider themselves “free agents.” After all, corporations and organizations exhibited very little loyalty to their employees during the downturn, so why should the employee be loyal?
The resumes of many of my clients in their early 30s list on average close to a half dozen jobs. This can indeed cause raised eyebrows, especially from older hiring managers, but what is key is that: 1) There is a credible and palatable explanation for the numerous shifts and, even more importantly, 2) that accomplishments and results are clearly articulated so that an employer can understand the value that you will bring, even if it’s for only a couple of years. Said another way, be careful about switching until you can cite accomplishments and results.
Switching employers relatively frequently can offer a number of benefits. First, there is the fact that you are more likely to get a compensation increase by moving. It may also help you to get promoted quicker, although the data suggests that longevity in a job is correlated with advancement within an organization. Second, every time you switch jobs you are going to need to acquire new interpersonal and political skills if you are to successfully navigate the new corporate culture you find yourself in. And of course you may need to acquire new technical skills as well, since the job demands will be different in a new position. Third, working at a number of different firms in positions that have disparate requirements offers the opportunity to become more sure of what you like and don't like: culturally, functionally, and relationally. For example, you may be surprised to discover that although you are a very organized person you enjoy a loose organizational structure. Or that the project management aspect of your job is more appealing than the analytical part. Or that you are less averse to an overbearing boss than you might have imagined.
If you find yourself switching jobs more frequently than you would like because of difficulties you repeatedly encounter in the workplace, take stock of what role you may be playing in the dysfunction. For example, if you consistently find yourself working for bosses whom micromanage perhaps it's related to your being unreliable or sloppy. If you find yourselves being undermined by co-workers maybe you are somehow threatening their job security or alienating them. Sometimes it's hard to see what part you are playing in problem situations - if so, seek the opinion of a professional. I'll be happy to figure it out with you.